High-profile criminal cases slowed by efforts to block coronavirus

The Court of Appeals vacancy will be created by the departure of Judge Charles D. Susano Jr. / (MGN)
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Shawnee County District Courtrooms should have been busy this week with hearings in criminal cases, according to cases listed in court records. But defendants charged with homicides, sex assaults, attempted armed robbery and other offenses listed on district court records are hitting the court shutdown tied to efforts to block the spread of coronavirus through Kansas courts.

As of Friday, the week's court appearances had been rescheduled to the future or remained listed with the dates several days old.
Rulings weren't being made on high-profile cases because of the court shutdown.

Court is anything but ordinary in Kansas district courts these days. To block the spread of the coronavirus in courts, trials and the bulk of court hearings are shut down in Shawnee County District Courts and other Kansas county courts.

Last week all jury trials in civil and criminal cases and scheduled to start on March 18 or after were continued until further order by the chief justice of the Kansas Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court order suspended all deadlines and time limitations to bring a defendant to trial until further order by Chief Justice Marla Luckert. According to Kansas law, a prosecutor normally has 150 days to bring a defendant to trial.

On Friday, two defendants were on the Shawnee County District Court calendar to face hearings tied to homicide charges.

One was Dana Lynn Chandler, 60, who is facing re-trial on two charges of first-degree murder in the 2002 shooting deaths of her former husband and his fiancee. Chandler was to have had a status hearing.

After the court shutdown, Chandler's case now is scheduled to next appear in court on April 30 more than a month after the Friday hearing date.
Defendant Larry D. Huggins III, who is charged with first-degree murder of a 15-year-old boy, attempted aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, and conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, all during the attempted holdup at a southeast Topeka home, remained scheduled to have a pre-trial hearing on Friday.

Michael Albert Anderson Sr. doesn't have a new date for a preliminary hearing to show whether there is enough evidence to try him. The hearing had been scheduled to be on Wednesday.

Anderson is charged with three counts of rape, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of aggravated criminal sodomy, and one count of aggravated battery, a total of eight criminal counts.

David E. Wood Jr., who was to appear in court on Thursday for a scheduling conference, is charged with first-degree murder and felony interference with a law enforcement officer, court records said.
The shutdown has changed the court hallways.

"On our busiest days, it's hard to walk the hallway without bumping into somebody," Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay said this week. Courtrooms fill the bulk of the third and fourth floors and two courtrooms are in the basement level of the Shawnee County Courthouse.

"Now it's hard to walk the hallway and see anybody," Kagay said. "I would compare it to coming in on a weekend" to work when the courthouse is closed.